Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Ephemerality & Meaning

I've been seeing a lot recently about how the ephemeral is valuable and the eternal is not. This seems to me to be only a half truth. There is a sense in which the passing away of the moment makes me value it, and hold tightly to it. But to me this is more a gesture, a way of saying that the moment however seemingly ephemeral has a value that is eternal. Our valuing of what lasts is pretty obvious. We are obsessed with old buildings and great natural structures because they seem, next to us, all but immortal. Nobody seeks to make an impact in the world that DOESN'T last because such an impact would be MORE meaningful. Rather, we seek to influence history, to have an impact that endures, because we naturally assume the enduring is more meaningful.

Of course one only has to have a sense of the eternal and the relativity of time and space to realize that any impact that looks lasting is but a drop, a moment, compared to the scales of time we now understand. That may be one reason why Creationists reject science. Science deals in scales that make human life seem insignificant, and so challenges religion's claims to meaning in and through life.

Yet the sense that life is meaningful is so insistent that people have to try to lie to themselves about the less enduring being more meaningful. Yet this lie is not fully a lie. As I said, the passing of the moment is a part of the sense of meaning. Here, again, process thought seems to be the key to understanding our lives in the world. I live into the moment as something that is a gift to God. The moment is eternalized in the life of God. And so the passing of the moment matters, since once it is gone the opportunity to make that moment eternal is also gone. Yet it is meaningful only IF it is added to God's own personal stock of experience. The opportunity is something to be pursued because the OPPORTUNITY doesn't last forever. Yet whether the opportunity is taken depends on whether we have eternalized the moment.

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